"We, in fact, will make Knowledge Providence the epicenter of the universe," Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, told a crowd of about 100 at the 2011 Knowledge Economy Community Forum yesterday morning.
The forum, which showcased the past and future growth of the Knowledge District, was held at the Alpert Medical School — a site chosen because of its role as "the catalyst for continued movement in this area," White said.
The new Medical Education Building is one of many ventures that promises to grow the Knowledge District and boost the state's economy. But as the area continues to develop, it is important to constantly monitor progress, said Pat Rogers, chief of staff for Gov. Lincoln Chafee '75 P'14.
To that end, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has worked with the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council to create a new index to track the state's success in building a knowledge economy. The index relies on 23 indicators — including per capita income, math scores for eighth graders and the number of science and engineering degrees awarded — according to information handed out at the event. The data for Rhode Island is then compared to three other sets of data — those for the U.S. as a whole, New England and 27 states lagging in science and technology development. All of this information will help Rhode Island pinpoint exactly what has gone well and what has not, Rogers said.
For example, the index shows that Rhode Island needs to make strides in "keeping our best and brightest right here in Rhode Island" and "building an entrepreneurial climate," she said.
Though Rhode Island needs work in these areas, among others, there is hope the state is on its way. Danny Warshay '87, adjunct lecturer in engineering and the founder of the company Clearview Software, said that, as one of the few entrepreneurs in Providence in the 1980s, he felt like a "mutant."
But almost 20 entrepreneurs attended the event yesterday and spoke about their diverse business ventures and future plans in Providence, an indicator of how much has changed. Moses Goddard, associate professor of research, spoke about Cytosolv Inc., a biotech company he started that is producing a drug for problems such as diabetic ulcers.
Dan Horton talked about ASR Systems, a company he founded in Providence that recycles asphalt roof shingles.
Julie Sygiel '09, whose office is in the Jewelry District, introduced her company Sexy Period, which sells underwear for women to wear during their periods.
Thomas Cafaro, vice president of innovation for G-Form, a company stationed in Providence that manufactures protective gear for athletic equipment and electronic devices, demonstrated his product's efficacy by surrounding an iPad in G-Form gear and dropping it to the floor. The tablet survived unscathed.
Constance Howes, chair of the Innovation Providence Implementation Council and president and chief executive officer of Women and Infants Hospital, articulated a theme of the forum: "The mutants are here to stay."